Friday, March 4, 2011

Hero Type

"My dad-now there's a hero.... Yeah, I saved Leah's life. But I did something else, too. Something no one knows about. I don't know which would be worse--the world learning the truth, or the world never learning. Because if people found out, my entire world would crumble. But worse than that is this: if no one ever knows, I think this secret is going to eat me alive from the inside out."

Title: Hero Type

Author: Barry Lyga

ISBN: 978-0-547-07663-8

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Copyright: 2008

Plot Summary: Hero Type begins with Kevin Ross overwhelmed by his town treating him as a hero for saving the life of another high schooler, his crush, Leah. At a ceremony, he receives the key to the city and a discounted car from the mayor's dealership. Kevin and his father live together in a small basement apartment in Brooksdale while his mother and little brother have moved to California. While Kevin is still adjusting to his newfound fame and trying to balance it with his Council of Fool friends, he receives the car from the mayor, adorned with magnetic "Support the Troop" ribbons. Kevin's father, who is an army veteran who served in Iraq becomes enraged and tells Kevin to throw them out. A photographer catches Kevin throwing the ribbons in the trash which sparks a wave of patriotism and Kevin-hate, starting with an article in the paper stating that he hates America and does not support the troops. Once a nobody, then a hero, now a villain, Kevin attempts to deal with the bullying without blaming the incident on his father while contemplating the need for free speech and his terrifying secret.

Critical Evaluation: Like most Young Adult novels, Hero Type is written from a first person point of view, from that of Kevin Ross. Kevin is a reliable narrator throughout the novel except for the fact that the readers know he has a secret that he cannot tell them and will only hint at on multiple occasions. This allows readers to guess at the secret, much like if they were friends with Kevin and slowly gather hints from conversation that can be pieced together. Kevin's dynamic with his friends, with Leah, and with his opponent John Riordon is every-changing and depicts the realistic facets of personality that people show depending on the stage. The dialog within Hero Type is realistic, containing stammering and awkward pauses, as well as jargon and clich├ęd phrases. Even the speeches at the end of the novel are written in easily discernible voices: Kevin's uncertain and wavering prose but with strong beliefs behind it, and John's smooth and familiar, recycled phrases. The issues of free speech and patriotism that are bought up, signified by the blue background and white stars on the cover, are handled in a realistic fashion as if it had been brought up in a school between two teenagers. While the difference between Kevin and John may seem overdone, a football all-star and a skinny geek, it is a common difference made with the twist that Kevin is not an intellectual genius with powers to counter John's physical prowess, nor is he a whiz kid at electronics, as proven by the amount of broken junk in the apartment he shares with his dad. Instead, Kevin is shown as a follower: he follows Flip and the rest of the Council and he follows the publicity and press. His true heroism is most poignant when he stays with his father instead of moving to California, even if it could have been a great change for his life, and when he refuses to be silent regarding free speech even when the entire school, including his friends, are against him.

Reader's Annotation: Kevin Ross is your typical unremarkable teen who saves a girl from a serial killer and becomes a town hero. His heroism lasts up until he throws away a Support-the-Troop magnet at the behest of his veteran father and the town goes up in patriotic flames.

Information About the Author: With a degree in English from Yale, Barry Lyga worked in the comic book industry for ten years before writing his first young adult novel in 2006: The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl. From there, he kept writing and churned out Boy Toy and Hero Type.
While he has stopped working in the comic book industry, their influence can still be seen in his books, as well as in Lyga's comic book collection. Read more about the author at his website.

Genre: High school life; Romance; Patriotism; Veterans; Free Speech; Ribbon Culture

Curriculum Ties: Veteran's Day; Social Studies / US History

Booktalking Ideas:
  • Hero Type discusses not only heroism and doing the right thing, but the freedom of speech, propaganda, and the current ribbon culture that substitutes for a culture that supports its troops through personal sacrifice and devotion of time.
Reading Level: Freshman+

Challenge Issues:
  • Hero Type discusses the ability to have free speech, whether it may contradict what the general consensus of "right" may be. Kevin Ross does his best to be a hero despite his previous actions and refuses to stay silent or to blame the circumstances on his father.
  • While there are a few curse words within the book, they are few and far between and not used gratuitously, as Kevin is able to stay in character and believable without them.
  • Hero Type promotes the support of troops in a more active and helpful manner than slapping on a bumper sticker. Kevin mentions some other activities that can help soldiers and Lyga's Author's Note also recommends donations to the Yellow Ribbon Fund which funds family and friends to visit wounded soldiers at the hospital as they recuperate.
Why This Book?: Staff recommendation; YALSA Books-to-Watch

Reference Page:
Lyga, B. (2008). Hero type. New York: Houghton Mifflin.

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